The Nissan Dualis continues to be as popular in Australia as it in Europe, where it’s known as the Qashqai.
Buyers continue to be charmed by the hybrid body style – which combines hatchback and compact SUV – from which the Dualis clearly derives its name.
The design is also more urban friendly than that of the Nissan with which it’s twinned – the boxy and rugged X-Trail soft-roader.
Among the Dualis’s most attractive qualities is its price. With the entry-level front-wheel drive ST manual starting from $24,990 before on-road costs, the Nissan Dualis is among the most affordable SUVs on the market, bettering key rivals such as the Mitsubishi ASX ($25,990), Skoda Yeti ($26,290), Kia Sportage ($26,720), Hyundai ix35 ($26,990), and the Subaru XV and Volkswagen Tiguan (both $28,490).
There are no standout features, but the entry-level Dualis ST is reasonably equipped for a base model, offering 16-inch alloy wheels and a full-size steel spare, LED tail-lights, cruise control, leather-wrapped tilt- and reach-adjustable steering wheel, height-adjustable driver’s seat with cloth trim, and a four-speaker audio system with AUX/USB inputs, iPod integration and Bluetooth phone connectivity with audio streaming.
Value remains a strong point throughout the range, with the well-equipped mid-spec Ti priced from under $30,000 and the flagship all-wheel drive Ti-L topping out at $36,240.
For an extra $4700 over the ST, the Dualis Ti adds 18-inch alloys (the 16-inch steel spare remains), front foglights, automatic headlights and wipers, rear privacy glass, chrome exterior highlights, panoramic glass roof with power sunshade, smart key with keyless entry and push-button start, dual-zone climate control, leather upholstery, heated front seats, front map lights and a rear armrest with cup holders.
An extra $1850 (or $4050 for the AWD, which is available exclusively with the CVT) gets you the Dualis Ti-L with unique black-painted alloys, silver roof rails, a limited slip differential (AWD only), and a five-inch colour display screen with satellite navigation, reversing camera with path predictor and Nissan’s Around View Monitor.
Around View uses four wide-angle high-resolution cameras – located in the front badge, on the tailgate, and at the base of both side mirrors – to give the driver more information about the position of surrounding vehicles, kerbs and parking space lines when performing low-speed manoeuvres.
The system allows you to switch between two perspectives: one with a full bird’s-eye view display that uses all four cameras – particularly useful when performing reverse 90-degree parks – and the other that focuses on the left-side view, helping you judge your distance from the gutter during parallel parks. The view from the rear-mounted camera is always visible when reverse is selected, giving you an unrestricted view of the area behind your bumper.
Around View is simple and effective, and a bargain in the Dualis given it’s typically only offered in more expensive luxury cars.
The satellite navigation system is intuitive to program, although the small screen is positioned quite low on the centre stack, forcing you to take your eyes a fair way from the road. Other features such as cruise and climate control, audio settings and the trip computer are also simple to navigate and user-friendly.
The cabin layout is clean and unlikely to offend, and there’s a high-quality feel to the soft-touch dash and door trim plastics and the white-stitched leather upholstery in the high-grade models. It’s let down by the quality of the fit, however, with a number of loose fixtures and panel gaps undermining any claims of a premium feel.
The front seats are comfortable and the view from the driver’s seat is commanding – helped by the Dualis’s higher-than-a-hatchback stance – though some taller drivers may find the seat can’t be adjusted low enough. Visibility is good both out the front and to the rear.
The back seats are quite firm and upright. The short bases and amount of available kneeroom also make them best suited to kids, while the lack of rear vents does nothing to improve second-row comfort. On the plus side, the full-length panoramic sunroof creates a tremendous sense of spaciousness by bathing the cabin in natural light.
The Dualis has a 410-litre boot with a flat floor. It’s no benchmark in the segment, but there’s plenty of room for a week’s worth of shopping or luggage for a weekend away. The 60:40 split rear seats don’t fold completely flat, but still create a practical load space for long and bulky items.
The worst aspect of the boot is the low-opening tailgate, which anyone over 5’9” will have to duck underneath – something that becomes quite annoying.
Under the bonnet of the Nissan Dualis lies a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with 102kW of power (at 5200rpm) and 198Nm of torque (at 4400rpm).
Equipped with the six-speed manual transmission the Dualis uses 8.1 litres of regular unleaded per 100km (8.3 AWD), while the ‘six-speed’ CVT is fractionally thirstier at 8.2L/100km (8.4 AWD).
The overwhelming sensation from the Dualis’s drivetrain is that it does its job and little more. It’s responsive enough to feel capable around town, although there’s little excitement or fun to be had, unlike some of its more driver-focused competitors.
The drivetrain is quiet when you’re not pushing it, but the engine has a high-pitched, breathy note at higher revs and creates a rather noisy package when teamed with the CVT. It’s forced to work hard up hills and when overtaking, with the revs easily spiralling above 5000rpm and remaining there with a tiresome drone until you let up on the throttle.
The steering offers little feedback and feels overly light at the straight-ahead position, though there’s a decent consistency about its weighting and an easy, desirable lightness at lower speeds.
The Dualis can tend to bounce and shudder over bumps rather than react to them quickly and precisely, though ride quality is otherwise decent with no nasty feedback from potholes and surface joins.
Just don’t expect similar levels of body control to lower-riding hatchbacks on twisty roads, with the Dualis tending to lean in corners and provide little excitement for the driver.
The Ti-L’s optional ‘All Mode’ all-wheel-drive system offers three settings: 2WD, which holds front-wheel drive at all times; Lock, which maintains a 50:50 split between both axles; and Auto, which constantly monitors wheel slip to find the optimal compromise.
The Dualis’s standard safety package includes six airbags and electronic stability control, helping it achieve the maximum five-star rating from local crash-tester ANCAP.
Nissan Australia offers capped-price servicing on the Dualis for the first six years or 120,000km of the vehicle’s life, with services scheduled every six months or 10,000km. Service costs range from $216 every six months up to $703 for some models, with a total maximum cost over the capped-price servicing period of $4291.
The Dualis is also covered by a three-year/100,000km warranty and three-year 24-hour roadside assistance.
The Nissan Dualis, then, has limitations in terms of its powertrain, driving dynamics and some interior ergonomics, and it doesn’t do enough to threaten the class benchmarks that are the Volkswagen Tiguan and Skoda Yeti.
But good pricing, decent equipment levels and general capability mean it’s worth a look for consumers in the market for a small SUV ... or an oversized hatchback.
Nissan Dualis manufacturer’s list prices:
- ST manual 2WD – $24,990
- ST CVT 2WD – $27,490
- Ti manual 2WD – $29,690
- Ti CVT 2WD – $32,190
- Ti-L manual 2WD – $31,540
- Ti-L CVT 2WD – $34,040
- Ti-L CVT AWD – $36,240